Skipping of Chinese characters does not rely on word-based processing

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Authors: Lin, N., Angele, B., Hua, H., Shen, W., Zhou, J. and Li, X.

Journal: Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics

Volume: 80

Issue: 2

Pages: 600-607

eISSN: 1943-393X

ISSN: 1943-3921

DOI: 10.3758/s13414-017-1444-0

© 2017, The Psychonomic Society, Inc. Previous eye-movement studies have indicated that people tend to skip extremely high-frequency words in sentence reading, such as “the” in English and “的/de” in Chinese. Two alternative hypotheses have been proposed to explain how this frequent skipping happens in Chinese reading: one assumes that skipping happens when the preview has been fully identified at the word level (word-based skipping); the other assumes that skipping happens whenever the preview character is easy to identify regardless of whether lexical processing has been completed or not (character-based skipping). Using the gaze-contingent display change paradigm, we examined the two hypotheses by substituting the preview of the third character of a four-character Chinese word with the high-frequency Chinese character “的/de”, which should disrupt the ongoing word-level processing. The character-based skipping hypothesis predicts that this manipulation will enhance the skipping probability of the target character (i.e., the third character of the target word), because the character “的/de” has much higher character frequency than the original character. The word-based skipping hypothesis instead predicts a reduction of the skipping probability of the target character because the presence of the character “的/de” is lexically infelicitous at word level. The results supported the character-based skipping hypothesis, indicating that in Chinese reading the decision of skipping a character can be made before integrating it into a word.

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